Ensign Anthony Talon and Lt. Commander Erin Hayden sat around the sensor station at the back of the bridge on the USS Crazy Horse. Anthony was manipulating the controls as the latteral sensors on the massive starship scanned the planet below.
“I don’t even know where to start. We know they can conceal their EM signatures from being read from orbit,” Anthony said.
“Okay, let’s assume people don’t change. What do we know about the Vidiians?” Erin asked.
“They are desperate. Shunned by the larger galactic community like lepers” Anthony replied.
Anthony thought trying to remember Voyager’s mission reports. As a kid he was obsessed with Voyager, and Tom Paris had been a hero of his. But, he hadn’t read some of these reports in ten years or more.
“They uh…” then the memory fragment clicked into place, “their first encounter had them in caves displaying false dilithium signatures. There was a lab and support facilities concealed in those caves.”
“They probably used a planet with real dilithium this time because people figured them out,” Erin replied.
“Yeah, probably, but there are caves!” Anthony said excitement in his voice. He tapped out commands on the computer and brought up a map surrounding their settlement. Entering additional commands the cave locations were marked on the map with red dots. “Look at this. This is a cave we have yet to explore and it has a direct line of sight on the dilithium mines.” He drew a straight line between the two locations with the tip of his finger.
“As good a place to start as anywhere,” Erin replied.
Anthony nodded, “Let’s get these…” He cleared his throat realizing the unchraritable language he was about to use.
Erin placed a hand on Anthony’s, “For Diego.”
☆ ☆ ☆
Armed with phaser rifles seven Starfleet officers materialized outside the cave that Anthony and Erin had identified. Commander Torin peered suspiciously into the dark cavern. Anthony scanned the area with a critical eye while Erin used a tricorder.
“I am not picking up any lifesigns. The cavern extends 100 meters and splits. No indication of any power readings,” Erin reported reading her tricorder.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Torin replied bitterly
“Nothing is ever easy,” Anthony added.
“Let’s go,” Torin said and lead the group of officers into the inky blackness. They used the beacons of their rifles to light the way. The floor of the cavern was rocky that left no sign of passage and the walls were narrow and claustrophobic. The air had a stale earthy smell.
At the split they paused. “Left or right?” Torin asked.
Erin shrugged not looking away from her tricorder, “I’m still not reading anything but rock on the tricorder. Fifty-fifty.”
“Might as well take the left one,” Torin announced moving with decision.
“This cavern extends another twenty meters,” Erin informed. “Still no energy signatures or lifesigns.”
The walls opened up and this branch came to an abrupt end. “I’m reading rock for as far as the tricorder’s range. Hold on. This section is two degrees warmer. I have no explanation.”
“Well, let’s do a little digging and see what we find,” Torin responded as he stepped away from the wall.
He raised his rifle and aimed it at the warm spot Erin had indicated. Anthony did the same thing and they fired in unison. After a second or two the rock wall gave way to an artificial corridor. It was round in its construction with red rust steel support beams in an arch from floor to ceiling. Lamps hung from the ceiling illuminating the corridor.
“The corridor matches conventional Vidiian architecture,” Erin said.
“Well, it’s good to know they haven’t changed tactics much,” Anthony added.
“Stay on your toes people,” Torin ordered and pushed on into the Vidiian facility. After following the corridor they entered an empty room. The walls were lined with biological samples from floor to ceiling. A simple stainless steel table not unlike that of a coroner’s autopsy table sat in the center of the room spotlighted under a bright light.
“Reading epidermal, pulmonary, cardiac, and digestive organs from at least a dozen species. Hirogen, Kazon, Tallaxian, Devore, Brenari, and others,” Erin reported.
“This must be a warehouse for some sort of… dark harvest.” Torin commented.
The tricorder beeped and Erin hesitated at a tank holding a pair of lungs, “These are human.”
Torin sighed knowing the implications and moved to stand next to Erin. “Who?”
“I belive this is Crewman Green.” The tricorder made several more alarms, “Liver, kidneys, heart, and peices of epidermis all match Crewman Green.”
“I hoped he just got lost,” Anthony observed.
“There was little hope for that,” Torin replied, “Considering what happened to Mr. Garza, but I agree with you Mr. Talon. This is a fate I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.”
Anthony sighed and looked around, and there was a cargo bay door at the back of the room. He walked over to it. Finding a control panel he pressed a button and the massive doors parted and slid into the ceiling and floor.
The massive cargo bay beyond was filled with crates, barrels of varying sizes. In the center sat a Vidiian ship with its cargo ramp lowered and a pair of Vidiians struggling to load a heavy crate into their ship. They dropped it and the crate made a heavy thump on the floor and grabbed their weapons and ducked behind it using it as cover.
“Look out!” Anthony shouted as he took shelter. The Starfleet officers dove for cover as the phaser fight ensued. Sample containers exploded sending glass, liquid, and bits of organ everywhere.
The Starfleet attack was equally ineffective as their phaser bolts slammed into the crate. After several minutes of an exchange in weapons fire the two Vidiians fled into their ship closing the ramp behind them and the engines roared to life.
The ship lifted off the cargo bay floor and pushed through the force field hiding the base from the outside world and was gone. Torin ran into the cargo bay in a futile effort to stop the Vidiians. Slapping his combadge, “Torin to Crazy Horse, there’s a Vidiian ship leaving the planet.”